One would imagine that if any group understood the complexities of campaign finance law and the prohibitions on political donations by tax-exempt charitable organizations, it would be the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) — given that its members are all tasked with enforcing the letter of the law in their states.
Yet, according to a new report by journalist Judd Legum in his Popular Information newsletter, last summer RAGA “accepted an illegal $50,000 contribution from Children’s Health Defense, a leading purveyor of anti-vaccine propaganda run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
The prohibited contribution was uncovered as part of an IRS tax filing that was made last week.
As part of the tax code that governs groups organized as 501 (c) (3) charities such as Children’s Health Defense, any contributions to the charity are considered tax-deductible for its donors. That helpful deduction, however, comes along with a strict prohibition designed to prevent charitable groups from being misused as covert funnels of cash directed toward partisan political activities.
As the IRS tax code declares, organizations like Children’s Health Defense are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
That means that any donation from Children’s Health Defense to RAGA — which is classified by tax authorities as a 527 political organization with a sworn purpose of “influencing or attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of an individual to a federal, state, or local public office,” Republican Attorneys General specifically — is by definition unlawful.
Legum published the hard evidence of an illegal $50,000 contribution to RAGA made on July 12th last year.
When contacted by Legum, RFK’s anti-vax group acknowledged that their action violated tax regulations, but claimed that they were ignorant of the prohibition.
“Children’s Health Defense educates the public and advocates on health issues. CHD paid a fee to be able to educate attorneys general on health policy issues. We have since learned that the IRS prohibits any payment by a charity to a 527 organization, regardless of purpose. We regret our mistake and have changed our procedures so that this will not happen again,” the group told Popular Information.
The anti-vax activist group had better hope that the IRS accepts its explanation and apology.
Any use of charitable funds diverted to finance political activity could cause the IRS to revoke its tax exempt status and eliminate any deductions that its donors could otherwise take on their contributions.
If that were to occur, it would likely sunstantially reduce the amount of money the group uses to spread its medical misinformation. Since Robert Kennedy Jr. took over the leadership of Children’s Health Defense in 2015, both the group’s public profile and its revenue have increased substantially, growing to $6.8 million last year.
It uses that money donated tax free to its coffers to fund media campaigns that the Associated Press has characterized as “using slanted information, cherry-picked facts and conspiracy theories to spread distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
The Republican Attorneys General Association consists of many members who have overseen the laws preventing vaccine mandates in many Republican-led states.
The activities of the group include the creation and diseemination of a robo-call that urged its recipients to travel to Washington DC last January 6th to “Stop the Steal.”
The group is also active in supporting restrictions on women’s right to choose their own reproductive destinies and in restricting voting rights across the nation.
Let’s hope that the IRS makes an example of Children’s Health Defense and frevokes their tax-exempt status as soon as possible. The United States doen’t need any more taxpayer-subsidized, science-denying anti-vax propaganda being spread when the total number of COVID deaths have now exceeded 900,000 U.S. residents.
Original reporting by Judd Legum at Popular Information.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.